Diabetes can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can result in damage to the blood vessels in your retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition that can potentially cause blindness. If you have diabetes, you are at risk from diabetic retinopathy, and you should see your eye doctor for regular check-ups.
Diabetic retinopathy symptoms
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not affect your vision, and you may not even be aware that you have it. That’s why it’s important to have regular check-ups from an eye specialist if you suffer from diabetes.
When diabetic retinopathy starts to affect your vision, you may notice you have difficulty with reading and close-up work. Floaters in your vision and double vision may also be symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, although they can have other causes too.
In some cases, diabetic retinopathy may also lead to glaucoma.
The stages of diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy has a number of stages:
The early or ‘non-proliferative’ stages are characterised by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, but vision tends not to be affected.
Once the disease reaches the more advanced ‘proliferative’ stage, abnormal and fragile blood vessels begin to grow on the retina.
In this final stage, the abnormal blood vessels leak fluid into the macula – the centre of the retina – causing blurred vision.
Causes of diabetic retinopathy
High blood sugar levels can cause damage to the blood vessels in your retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). When damaged, these blood vessels can leak fluid or bleed, which causes the retina to swell and form deposits, resulting in blurred vision.
People with diabetes are at most risk from retinopathy, and the longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk. Hypertension, smoking and pregnancy can also increase your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy treatment
As soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should make an appointment for a diabetic retinopathy check up. If you do have diabetic retinopathy, your treatment will depend on the stage of the disease.